As elderly Greensburg couple battles covid in hospital, family asks public to ‘be smart’ | #vacation | #seniors | #elderly
Jim Kuhns had 30 cupcakes for his 91st birthday on Monday.
He had balloons, gifts, cards and his favorite: scratch-off lottery tickets.
But something was missing — his family.
That’s because the Greensburg man celebrated in Westmoreland Hospital while battling covid.
Betty Kuhns, his wife of 66 years, wasn’t by his side because she, too, is in the hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus. They were among December’s hundreds of new virus cases in Westmoreland County in what has become a grim record-breaking month. Their daughter and son-in-law, Susan and Rich Radomski, said the couple tested positive at the Greensburg assisted living facility where they have lived together for the past year.
Now, they have neighboring rooms at Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg, both separately battling the same invisible enemy.
“It tears you up inside,” Rich Radomski said. “You can’t relax. Every time the phone rings, you jump out of your skin.”
“It’s just not knowing,” Susan Radomski said.
The uncertainty of what’s coming in the next hour or day or week is unsettling to the Radomskis. They know the Kuhns are getting great care and they’re comforted by how forthcoming hospital staff is about every detail of their treatment. But they know the virus is unpredictable.
They are hoping to bring awareness to the pain dozens of families like theirs are facing as their virus-stricken loved ones are in hospitals or personal care facilities, battling it alone. The Radomskis said others in the community should take the virus seriously and consider their personal responsibility in potentially spreading it. They sympathize with the economic toll business closures are having and the need to get out, but Susan and Rich Radomski hope their pain will prompt a more considerate spirit as the virus surges locally and nationally.
“If we can, at least, get to one person, two people and have them think twice … if we can just change one person’s mind,” Rich Radomski said.
On Tuesday, there were 178 people with covid hospitalized in Westmoreland County, the most since the pandemic started in March, according to state data. December has been the deadliest month by far for the county — the toll has risen from 204 people on Dec. 1 to 365 on Wednesday. There have been more than 17,000 positive tests and 71,000 negative tests.
Wednesday was the 44th straight day of triple-digit new cases in the county, according to state data.
State health officials have asked residents to celebrate the holidays only with those in their households and enacted bans on indoor dining until Jan. 4, among other measures, in an effort to slow the virus’ spread. Vaccines have slowly started infiltrating hospitals nationwide while restaurants push back against the closures.
Health care workers have shared concerns about the strain the virus surge is putting on hospital systems as cases have been increasing since mid-October.
Jim and Betty Kuhns lived in Greensburg. He retired from Charles M. Henry Printing and she worked at Sears. They have five children, one of whom died this year. Both enjoy playing cards.
The Kuhns have eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. The couple moved into a Greensburg assisted living facility late last year and visitation has been restricted since March because of the pandemic. They had been isolated in their room for the last few weeks, but Jim Kuhns, a Korean War Army veteran, tested positive for the virus on Dec. 15.
The next day, he was hospitalized and Betty Kuhns, 85, tested positive, too. Both were otherwise healthy and the only underlying condition is Betty’s asthma, Rich Radomski said. She was hospitalized on her husband’s birthday with covid and pneumonia.
Family members are relying on chats with their beloved patients when possible and detailed reports from nursing staff.
“They tell us exactly what’s going on, exactly what they see,” Rich Radomski said. “One of the greatest thrills we had the other morning was that they put him in a chair and he ate a little breakfast.”
While the Kuhns are in their hospital beds, the Radomskis are finding it hard to cope with everyday life. Between the lost appetites, headaches and sleepless nights, the virus is exacting an indirect toll on them, too. That’s why they’re urging others to think about their actions and how they could create a ripple effect through the community.
“If you truly love your parents, grandparents, brother, sister … trust me, you will feel like I feel right now if they have it,” Rich Radomski said. “Take pause. Think about what you’re doing. Be smart.”
While the holidays won’t be the same, the Radomskis are hoping they’ll have the chance to get back to normal soon. In the meantime, Susan Radomski said she’s been promising her parents that they can go to the casino when everyone is healthy again and restrictions are lifted.
“I’ve been telling them that all year,” she said.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .